Review: Let's Create! Pottery (DSiWare)

Let's not

Let's Create! Pottery may have the least appealing title this side of Let's Perform! Complex Trigonometry and Let's Compose! A Musical About Kobe Bryant's Lunch, but its problems run much deeper than that. Mainly, it’s just not very fun.

The game begins with a title screen that offers several options, but none of them involve starting the game. Instead you tap around the options that are available, and nothing seems to happen. Eventually you click an icon to read an email from the developers; that actually starts the game, though you wouldn't know it ahead of time. The email itself is sweet and they wish us a relaxing time — more on that later — but this initial lack of direction is emblematic of the Let's Create! Pottery experience as a whole.

There's never really any idea of what you need to do. For a game that prides itself on being a relaxing experience, we can let that slide. What's less forgivable is the fact that the game doesn't give you much indication of how to do anything at all. This leads to a lot of blind tapping, sliding, and clicking through irrelevant menus in the hope that some option, somewhere, will make the experience more fun.

The basic idea is that you shape clay into pots, vases and other objects. You do this by using the stylus to change the height and width of your piece, and that's really it. Simplicity is not a bad thing, but even the simplicity here seems to have been sloppily implemented, as the same actions performed with the stylus would sometimes cause the pottery to react, and other times not. This can be frustrating — as opposed to relaxing...ahem... — because you end up using larger and larger gestures just to get the game to recognize them, and then end up making more severe changes to your piece than you had intended.

When you're satisfied with — or bored of — your piece, you can fire it and paint it. Firing it is the most successfully responsive activity in the game, because you don't have to do anything at all. Painting it is another exercise in directionless frustration as you need to buy equipment and colours individually from the shop without necessarily knowing how to use them, or even if you're buying what you'd like to use on your piece in the first place.

You earn money for the shop by completing pottery to the specifications of supplied photographs for clients, or by creating whatever garbage you like and selling it at an auction. The auction proceeds entirely without input from you, and it combines all the excitement of sitting quietly and wishing you had your money back.

The fact that the shop exists at all is something of another problem. Instead of providing the player with a sense of achievement when they get to buy something, it feels much more like a sense of restriction, and that's not a good thing to have in an art game. Imagine a graphic design program that forced you to log a certain number of hours with only the most basic tools before allowing you to unlock and use anything more interesting, and you'll get an idea of why withholding simple brushes and paints isn't much appreciated.

You also may not even realize that you can paint your pieces, as that stage of creation doesn't open up until you purchase a brush. Giving the player basic equipment up front would have helped enormously or, again, at least have provided some sense of direction.

Let's Create! Pottery has good intentions. It wants to provide you with a calm, meditative journey through the magic of hands-on creation. Unfortunately it actually provides a vague, unresponsive slog through the reality of limitation. A more successfully relaxing use of your DSi would be to simply leave it switched off in the first place.

Conclusion

Let's Create! Pottery suffers from unresponsive controls and uninspired presentation but, more importantly, it also suffers from not being very much fun. It's a time-waster alright, but not a very good one. Some more options really would have gone a long way, as the core experience of shaping and painting pots just isn't compelling enough to come back to. We respect what Let's Create! Pottery tried to do, but there's a difference between relaxing a gamer and putting them to sleep.